I think it’s high time for some chocolate peppermint action up in here don’t you? No Christmas season is really complete without the presence of a festive candy cane or two and this layer cake has a couple of those and so much more. It’s a showstopper if I ever saw one, and would be the perfect dessert for a holiday party or special dinner.
Let me break this beauty down for you: rich dark chocolate cake, dark chocolate peppermint ganache (which adds the most amazing fudgieness,) and sweet peppermint cream cheese frosting. Each bite of this cake is equal parts decadent and refreshing, (in that after dinner mint sort of way. )
As I was making this I was positive it was going to be an epic fail. I actually forgot to add eggs to the cake and I didn’t realize until the first two pans were in the oven. I added the egg to the third layer but then realized I should have just let them be. In case you’re wondering it didn’t affect things as badly as I thought. The egg-free layers were denser but super fudgy. The layer I remembered the egg for was light & fluffy. They all tasted the same though. (Just in case you ever forget- in this cake- the end is not lost!!)
Then, as I was making the ganache it actually split. (Which means the fat separates from the protein and creates a weird oily affect.) I almost scrapped it but a quick Google search suggested I whip some air in with my mixer until it was smooth. I did and it came back together! Needless to say, I was convinced I was going to be scrapping this entire cursed cake and that I had wasted my morning for nothing.
It sure is satisfying to finish the whole thing, realizing the cake looks lovely but being worried as heck that when you cut the first slice the whole thing is going to fall apart or be a general disaster. As I sliced into this puppy and saw how well it turned out I became convinced of something- this is the most resilient cake recipe ever- despite all the hiccups on the way it turned out better than I could have dreamed. This is a December staple for sure. (Or any time of year- who am I kidding?)
For the Cake:
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
- 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 and 1/4 cups sugar
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
- 4 1/2 tablespoons safflower oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the Ganache:
- 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- a few drops of peppermint extract
For the Frosting:
- 4 oz of cream cheese, softened
- 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) butter, softened
- 5-7 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
- large pinch of salt
- milk as needed (I used about 1 tablespoon)
- 2 crushed candy canes for decorating
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter three 8 or 9 inch round cake pans, sprinkle with flour and line with parchment rounds. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, soda and salt.) Whisk together until well combined.
Add all the rest of the ingredients- (eggs, buttermilk, warm water, oil and vanilla,) and whisk until smooth, clump-free and glossy. (Don't over-mix)
Divide the batter evenly among the pans, and bake for 30-40 minutes, (depending on your oven,) or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
While the cake cools, make the ganache:
Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream until the edges start to bubble (don't let it get to boiling!) pour it over the chocolate and let it be for a few minutes.
Stir until smooth and glossy. Whisk in the peppermint extract
For the Frosting:
Beat together the cream cheese and butter. Add the extracts and salt. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup or so at a time until frosting is smooth and thick. Add a few splashes of milk as needed until the frosting is good spreading consistency.
If needed, level your cake layers to remove a domed top using a serrated bread knife. Place the cake face down on a turn table with some parchment paper strips around the edges. Spread some ganache over the cake and let it chill for a minute to set. Top with frosting and use an off-set spatula to spread to the edges. Top with another cake layer and repeat with the 2nd and 3rd layer.
After spreading ganache on the top later and letting it set, give the cake a thin "crumb coat" of frosting and let it set in the fridge or freezer. Continue to pile the frosting on, smoothing it over the sides and top of the cake.
Sprinkle crushed candy cakes on the cake to garnish and let the whole thing set for another 15 minutes before serving.
Chocolate Cake recipe adapted from Martha Stewart